Pizzeria Mozza

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

It’s not easy to get a table at Mozza. The first time we went, it was an impomptu treat from a regular and we had no idea of the privilege we had then. The next time, we called, hoping to get a reservation for the following evening, only to be told that we had to wait till the week after. So wait we did, and it didn’t disappoint. Make  sure you order lots of antipasti, they’re generally very good. We started with the chicken livers, capers, parsley and guanciale bruschetta ($17). The coarsely chopped liver paste on crisp toast is one of my favourite starters here, I love the not-quite pate texture of silky yet not completely smooth. The bacon crisp on top of guanciale (apparently bacon made from pork cheek) really was gilding the lily. Yummy. If you have space, also try the fagiole one, that’s pretty decent too.

IMG_3945

It seems a bit of an overkill to order bread to go along with our starters especially after the bruschetta, but the  fett’unta ($6) was really quite something. It’s a peasant-style bread cooked in a pan with olive oil to a very crisp crust, very yummy but also on the oily side. Eat with plenty of the next starter…

IMG_3946

… the prosciutto di parma and buffala mozzarella ($32). The buffala was creamy yet not heavy and was the perfect accompaniment to the salty prosciutto. We walloped it all with the bread. If you’re not so keen on ham, try the house made mozzarella with tomatoes, really excellent too.

IMG_3947

The marinated baby peppers with tuna ($16), while decent, was a bit of a weak link. It tasted like a starter on a hotel buffet line, which is not to say it was bad, it simply didn’t blow anything out of the water. Over-priced.

IMG_3948

We went for the pizza with ricotta, oyster mushrooms and shallots ($33). What I like about the pizzas here is that they are made to order and the ingredients are fresh, fresh, fresh. They even make their own ricotta in house. The ricotta was creamy and beautifully yielding, the perfect contrast to the crisp, fragrant bread base. Here, the pizza base is quite substantial, not the same as the thin crust variety that is so a la mode. This way, you get to really taste the bread and remember the pizza is in the end, bread with toppings, rather than toppings on a bread base.

IMG_3949

For dessert, the three of us were quite full from all that bread, so we share the banana gelato pie ($17). It’s basically banana ice cream on a biscuit base that’s topped with whipped cream, dark caramel sauce and plenty of toasted hazelnuts. I liked how it wasn’t as tooth-achingly sweet as the butterscotch budino we tried the last time, but considering how it’s really just a slab of ice cream with caramel sauce and hazelnuts, it’s expensive, no?

IMG_3950

Service-wise, this place is fairly OK as the staff are responsive and quick to take orders. I do, however, have the feeling that it’s not as good as when it first started. Maybe they aren’t able to retain good staff. Aside from that, though, there is this tendency for them to watch our plates like hawks and whip them off once empty, even if others at the table were still enjoying their food. Prevalent as the pratice is, I find that rather rude and offputting. I suppose they train their staff to do that to keep people moving. Doing that encourages people to finish quickly and get out, rather than lingering.

Considering how expensive this place is, I think it really takes away from the experience. I like the food, but I do not like the prices. I suppose one pays for the fresh produce and the privilege of dining at Marina Bay Sands.

Pizzeria Mozza
B1-42/46 Shoppes @ Marina Bay Sands
Tel: +65 6688 8868

A Whirlwind Work Trip: Summertime in Paris

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

The next part of our trip brought us to Paris where we stayed at Le Grand Hotel, run by the InterContinental. It was indeed a nice hotel with typically Parisian and very opulent rooms. There were soft beds (which my head of delegation didn’t like – oops) and plush carpets. There was also peeling wallpaper and the shower flooded the whole bathroom.

IMG_1877

Something weird happened: as I was settling in, room service rang and set up this elaborate set of drinks and cookies in the room. It was well and good until I excitedly rang my boss and asked if he was enjoying the complimentary drinks. (He wasn’t.) Then I realised that the welcome card had the wrong name on it! Horrified, I called our local representative office who booked the rooms for us to check if that was the name of the secretary doing the booking. (It wasn’t.) So I took their advice to “just whack.” and did exactly that. If you didn’t mind the odd service, the InterCon Le Grand is a nice though horribly over-priced place to stay. Thankfully, we had a free upgrade so the rooms were expensive but not quite horribly expensive for the company.

IMG_1879

We had a while to wander about town and enjoy some cakes at Laduree, which was thankfully still open on a Sunday.

IMG_1881

It’s such an institution there and if you haven’t tried their macarons, you haven’t really tasted one before. Their desserts are all very yummy too.

IMG_1880

Laduree
16 rue Royale 75008 Paris (there are also other branches in Paris, CDG and Versailles)
Tel: +33 (0) 1 42 60 21 79

Thereafter, we went for a bit of a meander through town, passing by the Place de la Concorde and the gardens in the area. There were so many people out in the later afternoon after the shops were closed, simply enjoying the sun. While it was inconvenient for us that we weren’t able to shop in the little time we had in Paris, I liked the idea of life going on in the daytime in spite of the dearth of shopping and commerce.

IMG_1886

I took the requisite touristy photos at what I think is the Place de la Concorde and its obelisk.

IMG_1884

And I grabbed some other pictures of the beautiful buildings sitting pretty in the afternoon sun.

IMG_1887

One of them could be Hotel Crillon, but I can’t be sure. The weather was too beautiful for it to matter.

IMG_1888

On the day with business meetings, it was a rush from stop to stop, with quick photos taken out of the rented car window.

IMG_1896

And this is the only decent shot I got of the Eiffel Tower, taken in the distance.

IMG_1908

When we finally got back from our business meetings, it was only to get a quick round of shopping before the shops closed. One of the incongruous ones I saw was this thoroughly modern Apple shop in an obviously old and well-preserved building.

IMG_1913

We finished off our Paris leg of the trip with a lovely meal at Oscar Restaurant, a favourite of our local representatives. I started with a lovely giblet salad topped with a duck liver terrine. It was typically Parisienne and a much wiser decision than my earlier choices of stodgy food in Milan.

IMG_1918

I was feeling quite heaty from all the travelling and eating (and being stuck in a boardroom for a whole afternoon without getting even a sip of water – poor organisation on the part of the hosts). The beef tartare as a main was very welcome. It was the best one I’ve had, the fresh and tasty raw beef being seasoned just right and not being overwhelmed by the pickle and onion chopped into the mixture. The fresh herbs and side salad helped lots too. By now, my dining companions were looking askance at my rather different choices and wondering what I was going to have for dessert.

IMG_1921

I eschewed the usual chocolate puddings and ice cream and gunned straight for the Faiselle, a type of sweet cheese topped with creme fraiche and accompanied with berry coulis. It was just the right creamy ending to my dinner.

IMG_1924

Oscar Restaurant
6, rue de Chaillot 75116 Paris
Tel: +33 (0) 1 47 20 26 92
Closed for Saturday lunch and on Sunday

A Tatsuya Birthday Dinner

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

In a fit of extreme generosity, Dad brought us to Tatsuya’s for my birthday dinner. We went for the seasonal omakase, which was many kinds of sublime. The thought that all the seafood had been flown in either fro Tsukiji or Fukuoka fish markets made the food even more delicious.

The first course was a duo of anglerfish liver and fresh ikura (salmon roe). The anglerfish liver was made into a pate. Smooth and unctuous with just a touch of fishiness to remind you that it’s fish not fowl, it was contrasted delicately with a light vinegar sauce. Sorry Kiraku, this version rocked my socks. And the ikura! As it is, ikura is one of my all time favourites. This version came with every single delicate egg sac intact and only very lightly sauced. The only pity was that there were two or three eggs that weren’t as fresh as they should be. It was still good though, because the others, each so incredibly bursty, made up for it.

IMGP1720

Next up was probably the best dish in the meal. I know the picture below doesn’t do it justice, but the crab tofu with century egg sauce was out of this world. I felt like I was eating crab chawanmushi because the tofu was so thick and rich. The crab formed a matrix that held the tofu together – succulently, just sheer crabily. The textures and flavours came together beautifully from the softness of the tofu to the yield of the crab and crunchiness of the shrimp roe to the earthiness of the century egg. It’s the one dish I’d go back for again and again.

IMG_0186

The sashimi plate came next. The fish was all fresh and good, though the otoro and amaebi weren’t the best I’ve tasted. I liked the yellowtail and swordfish, especially the dressed yellowtail in special sauce. I also liked how the waitress told us that everything on the plate could be eaten. The sprig of tiny pink flowers tasted vaguely of lavender and was an excellent interlude to the fish.

IMG_0188

The next dish was what we all felt was the weakest link. It was the simmered item: Japanese yam cakes with yakitori chicken and leek then sprinkled with yuzu. The yam cakes were still slightly crisp from the deep fryer (!) and had a very pleasing slightly starchy texture. I’m glad it didn’t have the gummy texture of the raw version. Now the rest of the dish somehow seemed unbalanced because the chicken was far too sweet and salty and the leek too pongy for my taste. I didn’t intend to have onion breath from a Japanese dinner!

IMG_0189

What followed was better than the preceding dish. Grilled barracuda topped with mentaiko mayonnaise and pickled ginger stem was quite good. It was a bit too rich for Mum and she pushed it to Dad. DC loved it though, mentaiko and especially mayonnaise are his favourites. I liked how the fish was grilled: slightly charred on the outside, moist perfection on the inside. The mentaiko mayonnaise was rich and full of oily fishy goodness.

IMGP1737

The next dish redeemed all the sins of the preceding dishes (bar the crab tofu of course). The sushi was amazing. Start first with the amberjack topped with caviar. Savour the unadulterated freshness contrasted with the dark, deeply savoury caviar. Then go for the swordfish aburi. Enjoy the contrast between cooked and fresh fish, and charred rice. Now have the sweet shrimp topped with prawn roe. Can you detect that special aroma of almost burnt crustacean? Ready for the otoro aburi? It’s pretty good but save the scallop with foie gras for the last. It’s that good. Smooth sweet scallop with fatty foie gras coming together in perfection in your mouth. Mmm…

IMGP1741

The waitress came round and asked if we were full. If not, she suggested the house temaki specialty. We were full but not about to pass up the house specialty. The waitress returned, urging us to quickly eat before the seaweed got soggy. My initial thoughts on the first bite were “quite normal what, salmon skin, prawn roe, cucumber, rice, what’s the big deal?” Then it dawned on me. The textures were an epiphany. There was firm rice, crispy salmon skin with a touch of rich mayonnaise, crunchy bursty roe, and fresh crisp cucumber. Wrapped with freshly toasted seaweed, it was an exploration of four kinds of crispy. Amazing.

IMGP1746a

We ended the savoury courses with a fantastic miso soup made with fresh baby clams. It was amazing how many clams I could fish out of one regular bowl of miso soup. The clams made the soup amazingly deep and richly seafoody yet not at all fishy. The miso rounded it all off nicely. Another coup for the chef.

When we finally surrendered to the waitress, she brought out the dessert of sweet pear, pomegranate and persimmon. The first two weren’t particularly special, but I liked the persimmon. It was sweet and yummy, though I’m not sure it’s that much nicer than a regular one at the peak of ripeness.

IMGP1748

One strange thing about this place is that while the food is posh and incredibly expensive, the waitresses talk quite loudly and seemed to treat us like friends, not so much customers. It nice and we felt at home quite quickly, but it seemed rather out of sync that the waitresses practically shouted orders at each other, so it’s not a place for a quiet dinner. It took a bit of getting used to though!

While of course not perfect, the meal was very good. DC said it’s the best Japanese he’s had in Singapore and he’s an authority given his extensive eating at these places. Definitely a place for celebrating birthdays and bonuses.

Tatsuya Japanese Restaurant
Goodwood Park Hotel
22 Scotts Road
Tel : 6887 4598

Chronicles of MPT: Tai Hwa Bak Chor Mee at Crawford Lane

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

A friend introduced me to the bak chor mee at Crawford Lane. This is Tai Hwa, not to be confused with Tai Wah. Unlike Tai Wah, it is the only stall with no branches anywhere else.

We got there at 10.30 am and there was no queue at all. Apparently during the peak period, the queue would stretch the length of the coffeeshop. We were in luck!

This bak chor mee ($4 up) is probably the best all-rounder so far. The noodles were perfectly al dente, as was the balance of chilli and vinegar. I also really liked the thin slivers of deep-fried lard that delivered the highest crisp vs. calorie ratio. They were just the right size: thin enough to crunch nicely yet large enough to avoid once the guilt set in. The one piece of dried sole fish wasn’t enough and was slightly bland, but it’s a small quibble.

The sliced meat, minced meat, liver and pork ball were all spot on, tender and juicy. The only let down was the dumpling, which was too salty. My friend didn’t notice, so I guess it was just me being too sensitive. Either that the uncle didn’t mix the dumpling filling well.

dscf4192

Wins: Best All-Rounder

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle
Blk 466 Crawford Lane #01-12
Tel: 6292 7477

Chronicles of MPT: Bestway Bak Chor Mee

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Finally made it to the Bak Chor Mee at Bestway Building. We got there for a lateish lunch on Saturday afternoon. I was glad that we were spared the mythical 40-minute wait as there wasn’t much of a crowd this time. Everything else bar the drink stall was closed. Even though there were only two people ahead of us, our order took a while to arrive. The uncle takes his time with the noodles.

First up, I liked the taste of the noodles ($4 up) very much. The chilli was quite fragrant and the vinegar was very mellow. A bit more chilli and vinegar would have made it much better. There was plenty of dried sole fish and they were also generous with the toppings: mince meat, liver, dumplings and meatballs. The meatballs were also spiked with dried sole bits, giving extra oomph. I wasn’t too keen on the noodles. The meepok was too soft for my liking. I could tell on first sight that it was soft, didn’t even need to bite in to know. Try ordering their dumpling soup instead, it’s got all the good stuff and none of the overcooked noodles stuff. For noodles, Seng Kee is probably better.

dscf4149

Verdict: I liked the taste and the toppings, but the noodles were bad.

Tai Wah Pork Noodle
Meeting Point Food Court
12 Prince Edward Road
#01-16 Bestway Building (TV12)
Mon-Sat 9 am to 3 pm
Tel: 9163 6228

Chronicles of MPT: Seng Kee Mushroom Minced Pork Noodles

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

I’m the biggest fan of meepok tah, whether fishball or bak chor flavour. It’s my default if I can’t decide what to eat at the hawker centre.

Since Mum and I were in the area, we dropped by Seng Kee Mushroom Minced Pork Noodles at Eunos to check out the hype. The smallest bowl of bak chor mee cost $4 and was slightly smaller than the typical $3.50 food court bak chor mee.

The sauce was good. I could tell that the mushrooms were stewed for ages to get out all that yummy mushroom flavour. The chilli was decent though I’d like it to be much hotter than this. Making this extra delicious were the tiny bits of fried lard that added crunch and sinfully good oily porkiness. If I’d never tried bak chor mee before, this would be pretty darn It. The missing ingredient was good ol’ black vinegar. A generous dash of that would take it straight to heaven.

Noodles-wise, it was only OK. While the noodles were the better thicker variety, they were too soft and needed either vinegar or a change to fresh blanching water. The beansprouts were a nice touch for adding crunch. I love beansprouts in my MPT. The fish dumpling was decent, though my mum got one with the filling missing!

dscf3681

The soup was quite something. As the bowl was set down, I could already smell it! Check out how much stuff has been boiled in it in the picture below. It’s sweet with pork and soy beans, deeply savoury from the dried sole (that’s where the smell came from) and redolent of chinese herbs like wolfberry. I liked it but my mum found it too rich.

dscf3683

Notwithstanding the tiny dried scallops sprinkled generously over the vegetables, we found the $4 dish overpriced. There were only about three heads of xiao bai cai on the plate, topped with two bland mushroom halves. The sauce was rich and full of seafood flavour and the dried scallops rather tasty. Still, I couldn’t help feeling cheated because all I really wanted was enough vegetable to balance out my meal.

dscf3685

Verdict? While it certainly is better than the average bak chor mee, the difference in quality isn’t that great. Go there only if you’re in the area.

Seng Kee Mushroom Minced Pork Noodles
316 Changi Road
Tel: 6345 7561

Dinner Party Solutions: Melt-in-the-Mouth Pâté

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Hands up those of who’ve had homemade pâté before. Isn’t it so much better than store-bought? This is great for a casual dinner party because it’s made in advance, communal and is so easy to serve. The ingredients are pretty affordable too.

dscf3401

Ingredients:

50 g butter
200 g chicken livers
cognac
80 ml cream
1 tbsp green peppercorns in brine, drained

50 ml chicken stock
½ tsp gelatin powder
bay leaves

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a pan and when the butter is foaming and hot, slip in the chicken livers. Expect to have some fear factor cooking at this point because the livers will start spitting. Brown the livers on both sides on high heat and try not to burn yourself. The livers should still be pink in the centre when done.
  2. Tip the livers and butter into a liquidiser or food processor. Add a good splash of cognac to the hot pan and boil off most of the alcohol. To continue with the fear factor theme, flame the cognac by tipping the pan over the flames to ignite (only works with gas hobs). Wait for flames to subside before tipping the reduced cognac into the liquidiser.
  3. Blend, then add the cream and keeping blending till you get a smooth paste. Add salt to taste.
  4. Push the mixture through a metal sieve to give the pâté its silky texture. Stir in the green peppercorns.
  5. Scrape into small ceramic pots and transfer to the fridge. This recipe makes 2 small pots as pictured.
  6. In a small saucepan, add the gelatin and a good pinch of salt to the chicken stock and warm gently. Stir constantly till gelatin dissolves.
  7. Cool the gelatin mixture by putting the pan in a basin of iced water and stir vigorously.
  8. Place a bay leaf on top of the pâté and pour a layer of gelatin mixture over.
  9. Refrigerate till set, about 2 hours.
  10. Serve with crackers or freshly baked bread. Cheese on the side is good too.

dscf3419